Digital legacies

Digital legacies refer to the data we leave behind when we pass. During our lifetimes, we inevitably and voluntarily generate large amounts of data. We create, share, and store content on the Internet, through platforms such as social media sites, user reviews, online banking, and many others. 

As the amount of data that we leave behind has exponentially grown, a question arises: What happens to this data and content after we pass? Do succession laws apply to data management and ownership, or is our content subject to the provisions contained in the terms of use developed by the platforms that are storing such data? Currently, there is no clear-cut answer. In many countries, family members or a representative of the deceased have little choice but to adhere to the terms of use, unless the individual who passed away left instructions behind as well as the necessary credentials for their family to manage their personal data online.

While countries are developing regulations for digital legacies, and there are several multilateral fora to discuss regulations on digital assets, such as cryptocurrency, international efforts for digital legacies have yet to evolve. Given the digital footprints that we leave behind and the borderless nature of the Internet, it is essential for the international community to develop sound policy on digital legacies.